How HR sensitises the workforce to social issues

The HR team partners with other functions and stakeholders to make this possible

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Many organisations in India Inc., especially in the manufacturing space, have certain sustainability goals and aims — such as reducing carbon footprints and using environment-friendly methods and processes — for the greater good of the world.

To make such goals achievable and possible, all employees are required to be aligned with the purpose of the company.

However, this sense of responsibility may not come naturally to everyone. Some need a fair amount of sensitisation and training to understand the larger impact of achieving sustainability goals. That means, educating employees on social issues becomes vital.

Generally, we see the CSR teams driving these agendas. However, training employees is the responsibility of the HR. After all, anything to do with people lies in the ambit of HR.

“I would definitely say that training or educating employees about social issues should be an HR responsibility as they can ensure that the idea cascades down the organisation much faster,” opines Manish Sinha, SVP & CHRO, Mahindra & Mahindra, Automotive Business.

“I would definitely say that training or educating employees about social issues should be an HR responsibility as they can ensure that the idea cascades down the organisation much faster”

Manish Sinha, SVP & CHRO, Mahindra & Mahindra, Automotive Business

In fact, many HR leaders agree that training employees on social issues is the responsibility of the HR. While this does happen in some organisations where some of these training programmes are actually co-created by the HR teams, other organisations have a long way to go.

“I believe achieving sustainability goals becomes an organisational responsibility and all top leaders including the HR leadership, partner to achieve these goals,” says Praveer Priyadarshi, senior HR leader.

Priyadarshi further mentions that quite often, the CSR team along with the marketing communication team, partners with the HR to drive certain programmes in an organisation.

“The role of the HR in this is largely about engaging the employees and other stakeholders to drive such agendas,” points out Priyadarshi, who has personally witnessed the HR teams partnering with NGOs — to hold workshops on various social issues such as water conservation — in many organisations.

“A lot of sensitisation does happen through trainings and workshops,” admits Priyadarshi.

Many campaigns are specially designed to sensitise people, such as Pepsico’s HIV campaign, which endeavoured to sensitise people to the discrimination faced by people uffering from HIV at the workplace.

Sinha who spent more than seven years at Pepsico was part of this campaign.

Talking to HRKatha, Ramesh Shankar S, HR leader, recalls his tenure with Siemens, where he witnessed the Company driving many initiatives, such as training and educating underprivileged students in engineering. Scholarships were provided to these students for further studies and the HR teams collaborated with other functions to drive such agendas.

“The role of the HR in educating employees about  social issues is largely about engaging people and other stakeholders”

Praveer Priyadarshi, senior HR leader

Moreover, many of the employees’ volunteer plans and activities are co-created with the HR teams. Shankar explains that there were health drives at Siemens, where the HR team partnered with the medical teams at Siemens and set up various health camps. Employees also participated in such initiatives and came forward to help or contribute to such social causes. This also helped the employees understand ways to keep themselves healthy by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

“Various employee volunteering programmes were co-created and employees were free to choose the cause they wanted to contribute to,” says Shankar.

At Mahindra, the Group-wide programme collects stories from all employees, where they have demonstrated an act of bravery. The best ones are actually broadcast to all employees through mails so that they inspire and instil a sense of responsibility towards humanity. “Stories of people saving lives on the road or of other humanitarian acts inspire others to behave in the same manner and help build a culture where corporate citizenship is valued,” shares Sinha.

The overall impact of such activities actually creates a culture where people really want to do something for the world. Moreover, this also creates a great employee value proposition as all youngsters want to contribute or give back to the society.

“Youngsters want to work for organisations that take steps to build a better society”

Ramesh Shankar S, HR leader

“Youngsters want to work for organisations that take steps to build a better society,” says Shankar.

Achieving sustainability goals has come to be an organisation-wide agenda, and all leaders, including HR leadership teams, play their part in educating or sensitising their people through employee volunteer programmes. “With such initiatives, we see brand ambassadors from within the workforce or leaders who take the initiative to cascade knowledge and awareness regarding such social issues throughout the organisation,” says Shankar.

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